Billionaire investors meet President, seek to pump cash into energy

Kenya is a model investment destination and a model for the rest of Africa, Sir Richard Branson, founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, declared earlier today.

The comments came after he led a group of investors in talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta at his Harambee House office. Together, they explored how to make the most of Kenya’s abundant potential for green energy.

Other investors in the delegation included Jacqueline Novogratz (founder and CEO, Acumen), Chris Anderson (curator, TED Conference) Dipender Saluja (Capricorn Investments), Steve Jurvetson (Draper Fisher Jurvetson), Strive Masiyiwa (founder and chair, Econet Wireless), Jean Oelwang (CEO, Virgin Unite) and Zia Khan of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Sir Richard said the proposed renewables project would benefit the 50% Kenyans who are yet to access electricity.

“Investors in this initiative have chosen Kenya because the Government is ready to listen to ideas and help implement them”, he said.

He pointed out that the project would cover Kenya and Rwanda, before being rolled out to other parts of the African continent. Both countries would serve as models.

Sir Richard thanked the President for supporting this new venture, saying Kenyans were diligent, and that it was only good sense to invest here.

The initiative comes in the wake of recent reports identifying a significant role for green mini-grids in rural electrification. The private sector, and bilateral and multilateral donors are keenly interested in developing different greenfield mini-grids in the country.

The proposed investment in renewable energy aims at displacing a percentage of diesel generation in off-grid stations.

Investment in renewables will raise the supply of clean energy for productive use, in support of Vision 2030.

Renewables are also expected to open up new job opportunities and revenue; to encourage optimal use of land as well as existing natural resources; and to enhance security.

In support of the push for clean energy, President Kenyatta launched the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project a week ago. It is expected to be the largest such project Africa, generating 310 megawatts of electricity – 14 percent of the Kenya’s current generation capacity.

Also present at today’s meeting were Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore; Kenya Private Sector Alliance CEO Carole Kariuki; KEPSA chairman Dennis Awori; Athi River Mining Company CEO Pradeep Paunrana; and Transport and Infrastructure acting CS Henry Rotich, with his Industrialization counterpart Adan Mohamed.

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